Interview: EDUCAS trainings help teachers place value on education and care
As part of the EDUCAS project, which focuses on creating child- and family-friendly learning spaces within early childhood education and care centers, practitioners at four centers in three countries are benefiting from a continuous professional development path. As part of the project, there are also three international trainings in which researchers, directors and teachers/practitioners from the centers involved in the project meet and have the chance to exchange and learn together.
Three international trainings were planned through the course of EDUCAS – one in Italy, one in Belgium, one in Lithuania. Two have taken place since 2019 with the third planned for the fall of 2020.
Having attended two out of three international trainings, several participants have been interviewed from each country. Fleur Lagast (25) is a teacher assistant at the Freinet Childcenter De Tandem in Brugge, Belgium. The ages in her class range from zero to three. Fleur and 3 other colleagues are taking part in the EDUCAS project. So far, they have joined the first two international trainings and participated in professional development activities. Since then, Fleur and her colleagues have developed new ideas and implemented innovative changes in her classroom.
Did the training activities help you in reflecting on your practice?
Through these trainings we were able to reflect on how our space is organized and how we could improve it. For instance, we didn't have a room for parents to chat with each other and this is a suggestion we will implement at the school. After visiting the school in Italy, we learnt that creating a space with warm colors allowed the children to feel calmer. At the class now we don't have that many toys as we used to, they are made with natural materials and less bright colors. We also changed the entrance's layout so that it has become more welcoming.
"EDUCAS trainings has shown us how to combine care and education in our daily activities"
How did the training activities help you in changing your practice in relation to "educare"?
We now look more into the details. We have also learnt that taking care of the little ones, in daily routines such as changing their diaper, can also turn into an educational moment. At lunchtime, we now get the older children involved- we ask them to give the fruit to the babies, for instance. It is very nice to see how they try to help. In general, the Continuous Professional Development Path training has shown us how to combine care and education in our daily activities.
Is there an added value in sharing training activities at the same time with colleagues from your own country and colleagues from different countries?
Yes, of course. When we went to Italy, we were very surprised to see how clean and well organized their school is compared to ours. On the other hand, they liked very much the open space we have here, with animals such as ponies, and the close contact we maintain with the parents. For me, personally, meeting colleagues from Italy showed me that, structures or layout might differ, but we, practitioners, we are all the same. We share the same objectives and want to achieve the same results in our daily work.
Is there anything you "discovered" about your practice thanks to these trainings?
We still have to work on this, and we would like to do it through the activities we did in the training, such as video recordings. This is something we want to do with other teachers because we think it can give us a very good insight into our daily practice, discover how we are doing, and learn a lot from it.
Which main challenge did you experience in these trainings?
I think the main challenge is a daily one, to which we are always confronted - how to deliver quality education and care in a large group of mixed aged children. At my group, we are two people taking care of 18 children, but in Belgium, it is common to have groups of 24 children for one teacher [when working with children aged two and a half to six years of age]. That is a big challenge.
Photo courtesy of ©Caroline Boudry.